Monday, April 11, 2011

Review: Serafin Cafe and Bar *CLOSED*

[Added 1 May 2014: Serafin closed on 9 April 2014. However, chef Serafin Bueno Sanz will be opening a tapas bar called Pepitos at the end of this year.]

Tapas restaurants are everywhere these days. The idea of eating a number of small dishes is so prevalent that you even see the term "tapas" being used to describe food of non-Spanish/non-European cultures: for instance, Japanese restaurant Soto has a section of their menu labelled "Japanese tapas", and Indian restaurant Arun's offers "a mouth watering tapas selection" according their website, even though the word is not used on their menu. I love tapas in any case, because you have the opportunity to sample a variety of items without feeling as though you are ordering too much.

A new tapas place opened off Dominion Road, close to Eden Park, a few weeks ago. I have been watching the space with interest for months, as a beautifully designed building was constructed in what used to be part of StereoWorld.  A news article about Serafin's trouble with obtaining a liquor licence gave us a further incentive to eat at this restaurant, to show the owner some local support.

The first time we entered Serafin (presumably named after chef owner Serafin Bueno, who according to Lauraine Jacobs was "the talented Spanish chef who presided over the kitchen of The Regent Auckland hotel back in the 80s"), there were no other customers in the stylish eatery.   The welcoming staff greeted us in Spanish, explained to us what tapas were, somewhat unnecessarily, and offered us drinks and pinchos, which were morsels on slices of bread.  Apparently, the lack of a liquor licence has caused some customers to walk out, and we made sure we signed the petition for it (already with hundreds of names) after our meal, which turned out to be delicious.  It was heartening to see the room fill up somewhat by then too.

Waitress offering us a selection of pinchos
The waitress recommended the paella, and we chose to try the one with clams and prawns, along with various tapas.  It was as tasty as it looked, with a strong seafood flavour, far superior to the paella you can buy at the markets around Auckland.  A plate of bread with tomatoes appeared at our table, and we were wondering if our order was mixed up somehow, before we were told that people always ate tapas with this bread.

Arroz Meloso de Langostinos y Almejas, which we called the seafood paella
Also recommended: Bomba de Chorizo con Salsa de Mojo Verde
The desserts brought us especial delight, and we turned up one weeknight (empty restaurant again) simply for the freshly-made churros with creamy tasting dipping chocolate and the "very Spanish" dessert of torrijas, which is a bit like bread and butter pudding but is made with red wine.  We returned for a third time in two weeks with friends in tow (restaurant fuller on a weekend), and finally tried the crema catalana, which almost surpassed the previous fantastic desserts with its smooth custard and delicate lemon flavour.

Chocolate con churros

Torrijas, topped with vanilla icecream
In short, bring your friends for a meal at Serafin, and make sure you leave room for dessert!  You can practise your Spanish while enjoying the beautiful interior decor or the outdoor courtyard area, and we just know this little place is going to be chock-a-block full during the Rugby World Cup.

Panda Recommends

Tapas: Bomba de Chorizo con Salsa de Mojo Verde (Potato balls with chorizo and Mojo Verde sauce, $10.00)
Mains: Arroz Meloso de Langostinos y Almejas (Spanish rice casserole with prawns and clams, feeds two people, $42.50), Doble Cocion de Pato com Lentejas y Paprika Ahumada y sus Verduritas (two ways of cooking duck confit with lentils, smoked paprika, vegetables and sherry vinegar, $21.00), Chilindron de Cordero y Judias Blancas y Cebolla Tierna (Lamb rack casserole with white beans, amontillado sherry and baby onions, $21.00)
Desserts: Crema Catalana (Catalan baked custard, $9.50), Chocolate con Churros (Spanish doughnuts with chocolate sauce, $8.00), Torrijas (marinated bread in red wine, $10.00)

Vegie Pandas
Limited range of main items for vegetarians here, but the desserts are divine.

[Added 17 August 2011:

The menu below is out-of-date. In their updated menu, they have added a marinated salmon dish, and offer a full drinks selection, including Sangría for $9 a glass.  Prices have been revised upwards for some dishes but not for others, which is not a terrible thing as they used to be almost too cheap for the quality of food we were getting, and more people eat here now than ever before.
[Removed 16 July 2011:


Currently you cannot purchase alcohol from this restaurant, but hopefully they will get a liquor licence soon, after the hearing which will be in Wellington on May 19.


Restaurant Details

Serafin Cafe & Bar
225B Dominion Road, Balmoral, Auckland
(09) 630 0228

Opening hours - winter (updated 29 June 2013):
Mondays closed.
Tuesdays to Thursdays 5:30 - 10pm
Fridays to Saturdays 11:30am - 3pm, 5:30 - 10pm
Sundays 11:30am - 3pm

Serafin opens onto Walters Road, off Dominion Road, next to the Wendy's drive-thru entrance.

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  1. Mmmm I love seafood Paella! This place looks fantastic -I think I may have to turn up and show support for these guys at some point..


    I wonder if they have wine yet.

  3. Apparently, they find out tomorrow if they will be able to sell alcohol. Given that there were only two objections at the hearing, versus over 1000 signatures in support, it is likely that wine will be available from next week! The food here is worth coming for on its own anyway, though.

  4. Thay've been able to sell alcohol for a week now, and it's great to see people inside every time we drive by now!


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